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Keene supervisor Bill Ferebee next to a boulder that's about to give way (Photo:  Brian Mann)
Keene supervisor Bill Ferebee next to a boulder that's about to give way (Photo: Brian Mann)

Keene Valley landslide now "largest in New York State history"

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Scientists say the massive landslide in Keene Valley is now the largest ever seen in New York state.

A half-dozen homes on Little Porter Mountain are still threatened and officials say they're monitoring the mass of earth and rock to determine whether more homes below the slide could be affected. Brian Mann has our update.

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The slide is toppling trees and sending big rocks tumbling downslope.

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The last couple of weeks, state geologist Andrew Kozlowski has been scouring the woods above Keene Valley, tracking an event that he now says is one for the record books.

"This is the largest landslide in New York state history.  There are now 82 acres of earth that's moving as a mass.  It's a pretty big deal," he says.

Studying a landmass that size that’s in motion – shifting several feet each day — has its hazards and hair-raising moments, Kozlowski says. 

"It's actually kind of exciting when you're out there trying to take measurements.  You can hear the trees actually cracking and snapping.  You'll see them, these are trees that are three feet in diamater and there coming down within a hundred yards of you.  You sort of look up and figure out where they're falling and evaluate the hazard.  In terms of the boulders, the first one that we actually encountered, I heard a noise coming down the hill.  And you try to put a tree between yourself and uphill.  You'll see a large boulder probably in the 400-600 pound category that's flying by forty yards away from you at about fifty miles an hour downslope.  So there are some real hazards."

Kozlowski says there’s no apparent risk of catastrophic failure – meaning the whole mass isn’t likely to drop quickly into the valley below.

But town supervisor Bill Ferebee says local officials are still watching the situation closely and making sure homeowners below the slide are informed.

"It is still very threatening actually.  The report shows that as of Friday, the slide has moved 150 feet downhill.  We don't know what the future holds for the lower property.  We feel that it's not a safety concern for the low lying area, but it is something we're continuing to watch."

Ferebee says the town is urging hikers and people curious about the slide to stay away from the active area.

Meanwhile, geologist Andrew Kozlwoski says homes along the top of the slide are still threatened. One has already been evacuated and another condemned.  

"I do think the homes are going to continue to be impacted," he says.

Some parts of the slide have actually accelerated in recent days, slumping faster.  Dry weather will slow the slide, Kozlowski  says, and it’s helping that the trees have finally leafed out in Keene Valley.  That process actually pulls water out of the ground. 

But Kozlwoski says the hillside could be destabilized enough that it might begin to move again when rain and snow builds again next season.

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